Study shows women playing sexualised characters showcase self-objectification

Video games, having a dominantly male demographic, have often featured hyper-sexualised women wearing sexualised clothing...

Video games, having a dominantly male demographic, have often featured hyper-sexualised women wearing sexualised clothing. For quite some time, developers and publishers have caught the flak of many who believe that this is degrading to women. If a recent study by researchers at the Stanford University is to be believed, however, aside from being degrading to women, it might also be harmful to society to some extent.

According to the study, female players who played sexualised characters in games apparently had a tendency to internalise the character’s appearance. In turn, they ended up exhibiting self-objectification to a greater degree than those who played non-sexualised characters. A dire problem arose when those with sexualised characters also showcased a higher Rape Myth Acceptance (RMA).

Here’s RMA and its effects as defined by the study: “Examples of rape myths include that women do something to ‘‘deserve’’ getting raped (such as drinking, being out late at night, or dressing suggestively), that rape victims are promiscuous, or that a ‘‘legitimate’’ rape victim can prevent her own pregnancy. Not only is RMA associated with callousness towards rape victims, but also towards victims of interpersonal violence and women in general. Women who endorse rape myths are less likely to take precautionary measures against rape. Men who endorse rape myths also demonstrate a greater likelihood to rape.”

 Study shows women playing sexualised characters showcase self-objectification

The characters on top are wearing sexualised clothes, while the ones on the bottom aren't


For the study, the researchers used 86 female participants ranging from 18 years to 41 years of age. All of these participants were from a “medium-sized West Coast University”. The participants had to wear a head-mounted display which would put them in a virtual world, where they would take on the role of a female character and would have to explore a room with a virtual mirror.

The characters controlled by the participants were randomly assigned, and were either based on digital pictures of the player, or as a female “other” of a similar age group to the player. The clothing on the characters was either conservative or suggestive.

After “playing” the game, the participants were asked to write down their current thoughts. These writing samples were then looked through for "body-related thoughts, which are indicators of self-objectifications." Apparently, participants who had the most sexualised characters had a "significantly" higher number of body-related thoughts than participants who played non-sexualised characters. Resemblance of the character to the player had no significant effect.

The participants were then asked a series of questions to determine their RMA score. Those playing non-sexualised characters scored the same as they did before they played the game. Sexualised-character players got the highest RMA score, making them the most likely to believe rape myths. Those who played a sexualised character that wasn’t based on them, interestingly, had the lowest RMA scores.

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